By Pat Pitts
Only a few things in this world give me pure joy and the NFL’s return is on that list. The Buccaneers and Cowboys played in the first game of the season on Thursday night as fans packed the stadium to usher in a new year for real life and fantasy football.
Managers have drafted their rosters, but need to set their lineups. So, it’s time for Pitts’ players to play or bench this week. So, here are a few players I will lock into my lineup, along with a few that I am socially distancing from for Week 1.
Aaron Rodgers @ NO (In Jacksonville)
The reigning MVP faces the Saints in Week 1 and according to Packers beat writer Matt Schneidman, this is the last chance for Rodgers to bring the Lombardi trophy home to Green Bay. Rodgers is going to show off and show out in what could be his final season with the Packers.
Lamar Jackson @ LVR (Monday Night)
Lamar Jackson finished last season finishing with over 20 points per week after Week 12 and averaging nearly three total touchdowns in that span. He ranked as the QB4 across fantasy platforms in 2020; in Week 1 he could be a QB1 and RB1 with all of the injuries the Ravens have been dealt at the running back position.
The Ravens suffered three season-ending injuries to their running backs, giving more opportunities for Jackson to move the ball down the field with his legs. Jackson’s dual-threat ability makes him a perfect QB1 this week.
Jimmy Garoppolo @ DET
Jimmy Garoppolo “won” the starting job over rookie Trey Lance and as a result, he has the pleasure of facing the new and improved Lions to start the season. The Lions finished inside the Top-3 of most passing yards allowed in 2020. It may be a new team, but old habits die hard. Garappolo ranks as a fringe QB1 this week and he remains a great QB option in two QB or SuperFlex leagues.
Raheem Mostert @ DET
Raheem Mostert leads the 49ers backfield against a Lions team that allowed the most fantasy points to RBs last season. That’s it. That is the reason to start him.
Myles Gaskin @ NE
Last year, Myles Gaskin burst onto the scene finishing as the RB28 having only played in 11 games. Gaskin brings a lot to this young Dolphins team, especially this week against the Patriots defense that allowed the 7th most rushing yards to opposing RBs in 2020. Gaskin proved he can produce at a high level, which makes him a solid RB2 option in Week 1.
Miles Sanders @ ATL
It has not been the best of times within the Eagles organization, but it hasn’t affected Sanders performance. In his first two seasons, he has finished as a Top-24 RB. The Falcons allowed the 4th most yards in the league in 2020, but did not do a lot to fix the problem. Sanders is a must start for Week 1.
Devonta Smith @ ATL
Putting a rookie in your fantasy lineup Week 1 is a massive risk, but there’s always an exception to rules. The Falcons allowed the most passing yards in the NFL (4697) during 2020 and their solution to the problem was signing Duron Harmon and not really improving much else with the defense. The Eagles will showcase Smith’s route-running ability on Sunday and show why he’s the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. He fits perfectly into a solid WR2/FLEX role.
Justin Jefferson @ CIN
No one could stop Justin Jefferson last season as he broke the Vikings rookie receiving yards record (1,400), which was previously held by Randy Moss.
The Bengals’ pass defense needed improvement over the offseason, signing CBs Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton to help their woes. Justin Jefferson is a must-start as he has the potential to be the overall WR1 after this game.
Jakobi Meyers vs MIA
Jakobi Meyers led the Patriots in almost every receiving stat in 2020. He established a connection with Mac Jones throughout training camp that should do wonders during the regular season. Meyers faces a solid Dolphins secondary, but has receivers around him that can take the pressure off of him, clocking him in as a WR2 this week.
Kyle Pitts vs PHI
We share the same last name, so we’re basically family. And Vin Diesel says you never bench your family.
TJ Hockenson vs SF
TJ Hockenson played well last season, catching 67 passes for 723 yards and six touchdowns. Goff needs to rely on Hockenson if he wants to have any success commanding the offense in Detroit. The 49ers’ defense projects as a Top-5 unit, but Hockenson remains Goff’s best option to move the ball in the passing game, making him a TE1 this week.
Mark Andrews @ LVR
The Ravens need someone to help Lamar Jackson move the ball after all the injuries sustained during the preseason and practices leading up to the season, especially at the RB position. Andrews finished 2020 as TE4 and every Top-10 TE should be in a starting lineup.
Jared Goff vs SF
The Lions allowed their best WR in Kenny Golladay to walk in free agency, Marvin Jones also left, and the team cut Breshad Perriman during camp. Who is Jared Goff supposed to throw the ball to?
Carson Wentz vs SEA
Carson Wentz is working his way back from injury… stop me if you’ve heard that before. Wentz is a complete wildcard not just in Week 1, but for the entire season.
Sam Darnold vs NYJ
Your draft must have gone pretty bad if you’re considering starting Sam Darnold.
Patriots RBs vs MIA
Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris may be the backfield of the future, but not worth a starting spot in Week 1. Mac Jones will most likely rely on his TEs as a safety blanket, so wait a week before putting one of them in your lineup.
Austin Ekeler vs WFT
Austin Ekeler has been dealing with a hamstring injury all week, so even if he starts he will most likely be on a snap count. That is not the energy your Week 1 lineup needs.
Josh Jacobs vs BAL
Josh Jacobs is probably awake right now having nightmares about this Ravens defense. Coupling the Ravens defense with the offseason addition of Kenyan Drake to the Raiders backfield that will cut into Jacobs carries, this makes for a disastrous combo for a Monday Night Miracle.
Terry McLaurin vs LAC
The Chargers have one of the most star-studded defenses in the entire league that features Derwin James returning from injury to play against the Football Team and Terry McLaurin. McLaurin is going to be in your lineup, but lower your expectations this week against the Chargers.
Jerry Jeudy @ NYG
Vic Fangio named Teddy Bridgewater the starting QB over Drew Lock for the Broncos and Bridgewater plays the complete opposite style of QB compared to Drew Lock, which is terrible news for Jeudy. It is a good idea to look elsewhere for a WR2.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown @ LVR
Every defensive back will be glued to Hollywood after the number of injuries occurring at Ravens’ camp. But unfortunately, it is not the week to start any Ravens pass catchers not named Mark Andrews.
Anthony Firkser vs ARI
It’s a new year and a new offense for the Titans. With Arthur Smith no longer running the offense in Tennessee and Julio Jones coming into the fold as a new weapon for Ryan Tannehill, the TE position doesn’t look poised for much love in Week 1 against Arizona.
Gerald Everett vs IND
Gerald Everett becomes the first tight end of the year to land on the sit list as a result of the Maniac. Darius Leonard makes it impossible for tight ends to produce. As a result, Zach Ertz is rostered in only 26% of leagues, making him a massive improvement over Everett this week.
Kyle Rudolph vs DEN
Daniel Jones is throwing the ball, the Broncos have elite pass rushers, and Kyle Rudolph will most likely be stuck blocking all afternoon.
Football is back and I could not be happier. So enjoy the games this week, don’t forget to set your lineups, and follow along all season for the best fantasy advice on the internet! You can do it!